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Something New Brewing in Uptown

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser

There is something starting to brew in uptown Susanville.

The Pioneer Saloon, a landmark in uptown for more than 100 years, is currently under renovation to become Lassen Ale Works, a Brew Pub serving micro-brewed beer and traditional pub food.

Margaret Liddiard and Mark Pfenning of Bend, Oregon and Erik Jefferts and Julie Howard of Denver, Colorado recently packed up their lives and moved here to Susanville, pursuing their dream of turning the Pioneer into a robust social spot in historic uptown.

The Pioneer building in the 1930's ~ Eastman Studios Postcard


The journey began while Liddiard and Pfenning were passing through town on their way home to Oregon. The couple had decided to wander uptown and get a drink when they came across a ‘For Sale’ sign in the Grand Cafe and instantly fell in love with the building.

They phoned their business partner Erik Jefferts, an experienced Brewmaster, who had been looking for another project and told them about the prospective spot. After researching the area and visiting the site, the four entrepreneurs were certain the town of Susanville was the perfect spot to open a brew pub.

“We see tremendous opportunity here in Susanville, this place is just waiting to be discovered,” said Liddiard.

While negotiating the purchase of the Grand Café, which the group plans to renovate and reopen, the Pioneer business next door went up for sale. “Since the Pioneer offered a much bigger space for the brewing equipment, we decided to lease the Pioneer as well as buying the Grand,” explains Liddiard.

Lassen Ale Work's Brewmaster Erik Jefferts

Jefferts is no newbie to brew making. He developed his love for microbrew in the mid 1980’s. While visiting his friends in Berkley, California he would frequent a local hang out, one of the first brew pubs in Northern California, the Triple Rock.

After moving back to his hometown of Seattle, Jefferts began working as a door man at the Big Time Brewing Company where he quickly recognized his passion for brewing. Within a month he became the assistant brewer and a month after that he progressed to night manager.

“I just really fell in love with brewing,” said Jefferts. “I knew it was something I wanted to do.“

The new Pioneer is planning on brewing six different house beers, which will always be available on tap; Bizz Johnson Trail Blond, Almanor Amber Ale, Eagle Lake IPA, Rooptown Red Ale, Uptown Brown Ale, Pioneer Porter Ale and Devils Corral Imperial Stout.

New brew tanks installed at Lassen Ale Works

All of the beer will be brewed inside Lassen Ale works and sold by the keg to other restaurants and vendors in the area.

“We will let Susanville decide what our signature beer will be,” said Liddiard.

According to Liddiard the menu will feature traditional pub food and their goal is to try and use as many local vendors as possible. The group also understands keeping things affordable in this economy is especially important.

“We want to strike a balance between buying things locally and also keeping things affordably priced,” said Liddiard.

Although the building is receiving a facelift the group plans to preserve many historical aspects of the original Pioneer such as the famous wall of brands and the painted mural within.

Lance Monath, owner of Monath Construction, overseeing the brewery remodel

“This is a much loved landmark, we are rehabbing the neon sign, and we want to preserve every ounce of the building while making it inviting and comfortable,” explains Liddiard.

Lassen Ale Works is scheduled to open in May and food will be served from 11:00a.m.-11:00p.m., serving lunch, dinner and of course beer. “We want to give people one less reason to drive to Reno, and bring some night life back to historic uptown” said Liddiard.

Learn more about Lassen Ale Works by visiting their Facebook page here.


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